Monday, January 17, 2011

How To Do A Hermeneutical Hack Job - Rick Warren's Sermon At Desiring God (Part 5)

The following commentary corresponds to the following video from 20:50 to 21:45

Pastor Warren is now on a roll and my head is in a spin after the avalanche of information he has given out. Let's eat this elephant (no, not the invisible one in Rick Warren's living room) one piece at a time because there is no way we can digest the entire content of principle three in one sitting. This is so loaded with platitudes, cliches, moralisms, and bad hermeneutics (all filed under "Warrenisms") that I am struggling to process it all. Warren also dazzles his audience with breathtaking examples of his own immense humility. I only have time to serve up one piece of elephant today but what a vital piece of purpose driven elephant it is!

I don't think anyone is going to argue that a true disciple is someone who is constantly learning. I think it goes without saying, since a true disciple is someone who has repented of his man centered pride and knowledge, and submits to the Omniscient Lord and His inspired Word. But it doesn't take long for Warren to try and use this principle to fire a biblically incompetent cheap shot at those who dare to criticize his seeker sensitive philosophy. Here Warren contends that Matthew 11:28-30 is actually about coming to Jesus with our "felt needs" (Bill Hybels/Rick Warren language for the carnal desires of unregenerate sinners). But what does the text say:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Though Warren's main point from this section of Scripture is "learn from me", he can't help but take a poke at his reformed critics by pointing out that the "heavy laden" and "rest" described here are "felt needs". This is a great example of Warren at his deceptive best. If you twist a verse or proof-text at high speed you get the benefit of sounding theologically impressive while you do a snow job on your audience. Warren regularly proof-texts and gets away with it. But to try this stunt at a Desiring God conference is insulting to the many faithful Bible expositors in the audience. But why can't Warren go the conventional route of finding actual biblical support for his seeker sensitive views? Because there is no biblical support. The whole seeker sensitive movement is built upon a false premise that Scripture clearly repudiates the idea in Romans 3:11 with the words "no one seeks after God"

Have you ever met someone who is not a Christian and yet "feels the need" for the imputed righteousness of Christ? Lost sinners are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) and unable to perceive what their true spiritual needs are - unless the Spirit of God does a supernatural work in that valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-10, John 6:44). What a sinner feels and desires is always at odds with what their real needs are (hello - Romans 3!). Any good commentator will point out many vital truths from these verses in Matthew 11 but you won't find anyone describing "rest" and "burden" as the felt needs of an unregenerate sinner. On the contrary, John Macarthur, in his commentary on Matthew 11:28-30, had this to say:

There is an echo of the first beatitude (Matthew 5:3) in this passage. Note that this is an open invitation to all who hear - but phrased in such a way that the only ones who will respond to the invitation are those who are burdened by their own spiritual bankruptcy and the weight of trying to save themselves from keeping the law. The stubbornness of humanity's sinful rebellion is such that without a sovereignly bestowed spiritual awakening, all sinners refuse to acknowledge the depth of their spiritual poverty. That is why, as Jesus says in v27, our salvation is the sovereign work of God.

No this is not nit picking. This is just one small example that draws attention to a continual pattern of behavior and we need to watch out for it. Tim Challies has rightly pointed out that:

Warren has proven repeatedly that he does not and will not honor the Bible. He preaches from the Bible, he knows vast amounts of Scripture and I’m sure he loves studying the Bible. But his ministry makes clear that he does not truly honor it in the way he uses it. I hardly even know where to begin here. Turn to any of Warren’s books and you will see that this is the case. Time and time again he has misused and abused the Bible. Years ago I read The Purpose Driven Life day-by-day and blogged my way through each chapter. I looked up each and every Bible reference. And in almost every chapter I found that Warren had used Scripture poorly, stretching its meaning, choosing translations that, more than being true to the text, furthered his intended meaning. This is the way he always has used Scripture and the way he continues to today. Turn to just about any review of his books and you’ll find multitudes of examples.

John Piper, on the other hand, has a long history of ministry in which he seeks to extend the utmost care to the Bible. He preaches verse-by-verse, carefully expositing the Word of God, seeking to be absolutely faithful to the text. And few preachers have done a better job of this over a long pulpit ministry.

The contrast between these two preaching styles and, even more so, these two ways of using the Bible, could not be more stark. John Piper honors the Bible, Rick Warren very often does not. What frustrates me is that I know Warren knows better! For some reason he does not seem offended by what he must know is his own misuse of the Bible. (online source)

I only covered a small portion of video today but addressed a big part of Rick Warren's modus operandi. Something that we need to be aware of and to warn undiscerning sheep about . . . and bury our heads in bewilderment at why John Piper would invite Rick Warren to come to this conference and serve up his usual hermeneutical hack job. "America's Pastor" would do well to heed his own advice here - never let up on learning - and heed the counsel of the many faithful expositors who have called on him continually to stop twisting Scripture in order to make it endorse his pragmatic consumer driven philosophies. It is God's Word - not a cheap buffet!

More to come . . .

Go On To Part 6
Go Back To Part 4
Go Back To Part 1


Anonymous said...

I thought Joel Osteen was America's Pastor!

Cameron Buettel said...

Rick Warren was labelled as "America's Pastor" more than 5 years ago by both CNN and Time magazine.

Biff said...

And now the latest fad to come from Saddleback: A venue that draws thousands of people who want to lose weight is called a clinic, NOT a church.